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Put down the code. From code monkey to zoo keeper -- becoming a project manager and all the things we were never taught

The scenario;

A small team of 3 developers mostly in maintenance mode with traditional, classic ASP, .Net integration services and utilities with the company’s third party packages, and a bunch of java-based Coldfusion web applications all under Visual Source Safe (VSS). They are about to embark on a huge SharePoint 2010 new construction project and wanted to use subversion instead VSS. TFS was a foreign word and smelled of “high cost” and of an “over complicated process”. Since they had no preconditions about the old TFS versions (‘05 & ‘08), it was fun explaining how simple it was to install a TFS server and get the ball rolling, with or without all the heavy stuff one sometimes associates with such a huge and powerful application management lifecycle product.

So, how does a small team begin using TFS?

1. Start by using source control and migrate current VSS source trees into TFS. You can take the latest version or migrate the entire version history. It’s up to you on whether you want a clean start or need quick access to all the version notes and history of the bits.

2. Since most shops are mainly in maintenance mode with existing applications, begin using bug workitems for everything. When you receive an issue/bug from your current tracking system, manually enter the workitem in TFS right through Visual Studio. You can automate the integration to the current tracking system later or replace it entirely. Believe me, this thing is powerful and can handle even the largest of help desks.

3. With new construction, begin work with requirements and task workitems and follow the traditional sprint-based development lifecycle. Obviously, some minor training will be needed, but don’t fear, this is very intuitive and MSDN has a ton of lesson based labs and videos.

4. For the java developers, use the new Team Explorer Everywhere 2010 plugin (recently known as Teamprise). There is a seamless interface in Eclipse, but also a good command-line utility for other environments such as Dreamweaver.

5. Wait to fully integrate the whole workitem/project management/testing process until your team is familiar with the integrated workitems for bugs and code. After a while, you will see the team wanting more transparency into the work they are all doing and naturally, everyone will want workitems to help them organize the chaos!

6. Management will be limited in the value of the reports until you have a fully blown implementation of project planning, construction, build, deployment and testing. However, there are some basic “bug rate” reports and current backlog listings that can provide good information.

Some notable explanations of TFS;

Work Item Tracking and Project Management - A workitem represents the unit of work within the system which enables tracking of all activities produced by a user, whether it is a developer, business user, project manager or tester. The properties of a workitem such as linked changesets (checked-in code), who updated the data and when, the states and reasons for change, are all transitioned to a data warehouse within TFS for reporting purposes. A workitem can be defines as a "bug", "requirement", test case", or a "change request". They drive the work effort by the individual assigned to it and also provide a key role in defining what needs to be done. Workitems are the things the team needs to do to accomplish a goal.

Test Case Management - Starting with a workitem known as a "test case", a tester (or developer) can now author and manage test cases within a formal test plan subsystem. Although TFS supports the test case workitem type, there is a new product known as the VS Test Professional 2010 which allows a tester to facilitate manual tests including fast forwarding steps in the process to arrive at the assertion point quickly. This repeatable process provides quick regression tests and can be conducted by the business user to ensure completeness during UAT. In addition, developers no longer can provide a response to a bug with the line "cannot reproduce". With every test run, attachments including the recorded session, captured environment configurations and settings, screen shots, intellitrace (debugging history), and in some cases if the lab manager is being used, a snapshot of the tested environment is available.

Version Control - A modern system allowing shared check-in/check-out, excellent merge conflict resolution, Shelvesets (personal check-ins), branching/merging visualization, public workspaces, gated check-ins, security hierarchy capabilities, and changeset/workitem tracking. Knowing what was done with the code by any developer has become much easier to picture and resolve issues.

Team Build - Automate the compilation process whether you need it to be whenever a developer checks-in code, periodically such as nightly builds for testers in the morning, or manual builds to be deployed into production. Each build can run through pre-determined tests, perform code analysis to see if the developer conforms to the team standards, and reject the build if either fails.

Project Portal & Reporting - Provide management with a dashboard with insight into the project(s). "Where are we" in each step of the way including past iterations and the current burndown rate. Enabling this feature is easy as it seamlessly interfaces with existing SharePoint implementations.

Posted on Monday, April 26, 2010 8:45 AM | Back to top

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